JACKSONVILLE – Pads went on – all of the pads this time. And it was hot.
Those were storylines, but there was bigger stuff around the Jaguars on Day Five of 2015 training camp at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields …
Bigger stuff as in "starting quarterback" stuff.
Yes, Wednesday was the Jaguars' first day of 2015 in full pads. That meant one-on-one pass rush and run-blocking drills. And those things mattered Wednesday. They just didn't matter as much as Blake Bortles, because Bortles looked good.
"It went well," Bortles said of his work Wednesday.
Now, that's not much of a first quote, but Bortles has talked enough over the last few months. He has self-analyzed. He has self-corrected. Shoot, he has flat-out beaten himself up at times. He has done all of this while generously, graciously sharing with the media and the world that cares about these things what he must do to improve.
Yes, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft has been as open and giving as a young quarterback possibly could be expected to be, so while Bortles didn't say too, too much about just how he looked Wednesday, let's say it for him:
He looked good. Really good.
His best practice since joining the Jaguars? Maybe. That was the view from this vantage point and it was the view of other media members, too. But, forget that.
The point is it was good. The point, too, is it came in the wake of three other practices that were at worst solid and at best pretty darned good. Bortles entered training camp looking to show improvement after an offseason focused on fundamentals, footwork and mechanics. He entered training camp looking to show leadership, consistency and a grasp of the offense.
He has shown those things, and while we're not talking put-him-in-the-Pro-Bowl stuff, we are talking important stuff.
And we're sure talking stuff Head Coach Gus Bradley wanted to see.
"We say stack them up, and that's what he needs to do," Bradley said.
That's significant about Bortles in 2015 training camp thus far – that he has, as Bradley likes to say, "stacked them up." It's not that he has had one practice in which he dazzled and three others in which he was "blah." And it's not really that he has been spectacular in the sense of throwing touchdown pass after touchdown pass, or bullet pass through a defender after bullet pass through a defender.
But there absolutely has been clear improvement. He absolutely looks better, more confident, more accurate – more of all of the important things – than last year in training camp. He looks better than last regular season. He looks better than he did in OTAs.
"It's a process," Bortles said. "I could come out tomorrow and be horrible and it's not going to change what I do the following day. I want to continue to mentally own it and go through it that way and obviously stay on top of it physically in the fact that I'm making all of the throws that I need to make."
Yes, work remains, and Bortles remains focused on the process. Realistically, Bortles wasn't going to go from a quarterback who needed significant work on fundamentals to a quarterback who looked ready to go to the Pro Bowl. But it was reasonable to expect improvement, and goodness knows the Jaguars needed to see improvement. The immediate and long-term future depends on it.
On Wednesday, another practice came and went, and as it did, you saw the improvement again.
Take a look at the 10 best images from the fifth day of Jaguars training camp.
You saw a player more in command of the offense. You saw a player make two big-time throws – one to Allen Hurns for a 30-yard gain and one to Rashad Greene for what probably would have been a touchdown. You also saw a player who appears to have increasing command of the offense.
Bortles on Wednesday was asked again the difference between this year and last year.
"It's a lot," Bortles said. "I think last year, (my) head was spinning and this year it feels more normal, feels natural, it feels like this is my job. This is my workplace and I want to come in every day and try and focus on owning this offense and really trying to master this craft."
That also wasn't the first time we've heard something pretty close to that answer, and it makes sense that Bortles is feeling more normal, more natural. That's what he should feel, and it's what you'd expect him to say.
But now, you're starting to see it. You saw it Wednesday for a fourth consecutive day. Maybe that day was his best practice in 15 months with the Jaguars and maybe it wasn't.
Whatever it was it was another sign the young quarterback may be moving in the right direction.
And on a day when a lot of big, padded stuff happened, nothing could be bigger than that.